Friday, June 26, 2009

Walk Your Bike

Here in DC we're fortunate to have several excellent blogs devoted to bicycling as transportation. This might sound like a pretty geeky subject, but the ultimate goal is far-reaching: to make the nation's urban and suburban areas more people-friendly by designing for "active transportation" -- a category that ranges from kids (or adults) on skateboards to cyclists to pedestrians of every type. If you've stepped outside of a car lately you may have noticed: A lot of places are only friendly to autos. It's no wonder Americans drive everywhere.

Thanks to a confluence of factors -- gas prices, environmental awareness, enlightened urban planning, even stimulus money -- a lot of people feel we've reached a critical mass on this subject. Blogs like The WashCycle and the DC Bicycle Transportation Examiner do a great job tracking developments. And they're fun reading besides, particularly for someone who often gets around by bicycle.

The first blog, sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, provides detailed coverage of transportation and bike planning in the region. The second, by Adam Voiland, is a bit more personal, and wide-ranging. A former reporter for U.S. News and World Report, Adam (whom I've never met) will summarize complex health studies on air pollution and biking, then go on to feature pieces of local bike culture. His "Politicycle" analyses of politicians' records on cycling are a lot of fun. Who would've guessed that New York Sen. Charles Schumer, riding a $75 department store bike, would outscore DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, a triathlete with a $4,000 rig? (On second thought, maybe that's not so surprising.)

Yesterday Adam noted the increasing number of "Walk Your Bike" and similar signs around the DC area. I'd taken photos of a bunch of these signs on a long ride back from a photo assignment a few weeks ago, and turned the still images into a YouTube movie. Adam used it on his blog. You can read the blog, and see the movie (all of 30 seconds), by clicking on the image below.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Luck on Location

It's usually a big challenge, going into a typical DC office needing to come up with a really interesting photo, often for a cover. I may be misled by other photographers' images, but I get the impression that in Silicon Valley, everybody works in high-tech spaces with lots of glass and metal. In New York, company digs are pricey and elegant with somehow a bit of a gritty urban feel thrown in. And in Washington .... Well, there's often not much to work with here (especially since so many of the photo subjects are lawyers).

There's the conference room, with the maximum-sized conference table shoehorned in, leaving little space to maneuver. The room with the view - but each view overlooks either the White House or the Capitol. And the company logo, usually bolted to a wall in the elevator lobby.

I usually avoid them all. But sometimes you arrive on location and realize you lucked out. Such was the case a few days ago with a cover shoot at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They had a great logo, punched out of the sort of corrugated tin you'd expect to find sheltering a tequila bar in Tijuana (or a Chipotle in Bethesda). Combine that with the paintings decorating their suite and you feel this group definitely cares about its space.

The logo was fun to work with, as were my two subjects, Don and Katrina. And maybe the next time someone tells me over the phone, "Well, we have a nice sign out front," I'll put my skepticism on temporary hold.

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